Moms that fly

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the parenting column ·

When it comes down to it, finding joie de vivre-joy of living-is what really inspires people to have new experiences, make rewarding friendships and even zero in on lifestyle choices that put happiness and passion at the top of the priority list. Abraham Lincoln may have said it best when he said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Taking those words to heart is a group of women that are not only mothers; they are also avid skydivers at Chicago’s superlative state-of-the-art facility, Skydive Chicago.

Amy Cowhey knew by jump one when she was 19-well before having kids, that skydiving would be a significant part of her life. Since that first jump, she earned her certification and then logged more than 1,600 jumps.

“It just made me feel like anything was possible. It was so exhilarating,” said Cowhey. “People talk about doing yoga and learning to live in the moment and they take years to learn to meditate but honestly, the second you’re in the air, you’re in that moment. It’s like cheating to get there.”

Cowhey met her husband skydiving and their three kids have been around the drop zone and the skydiving scene their whole lives.

“I hope I can inspire my kids to pursue whatever it is they love,” said Cowhey. “There is so much to do and see in this life and I hope they all find something special to inspire them the way skydiving has inspired me.”

The Cowhey family has truly made a space for skydiving and it’s more of a way of life than a hobby-they bought a second home near by, they jump every weekend in the summer and they even take trips in the winter months to get jumps in-keeping their certification requirements current.

“My two oldest have been in the wind tunnel in Denver and they completely loved it,” said Cowhey. “You sometimes have to do amazing things to make it happen when you have kids. There are days where I have to fight for it and I appreciate it. I’m not sure what life looks like without it.”

The thrill of the dive is not the only reason Cowhey does it; she’s inserted herself into an amazing community of people that have become her closest friends. Over the last 14 years, she has gone to several different events and fun jumps and soon she’ll be competing with her friends in the Women’s Vertical World Record challenge, which involves building a formation to surpass 40 people-the goal is 69 this year.

“The freedom of spending a day jumping is incredible, but the great community of jumpers is also what brings me back,” said Cowhey. “I have met some of the most inspiring people and I’ve made many great friends.”

For moms that are thinking about taking their first skydive, Cowhey said, “Just do it. There’s no reason to shy away from it. Being a mom is scary-more scary. Skydiving is a lot of fun and there is a whole community of moms out there who jump.”

An example of what bliss looks like is in the face of Karen “KO” Softcheck, a mother and a grandmother who has over 2,700 dives under her belt. Her interest in skydiving initiated with her story-telling father who was an Army paratrooper.

“I went through a kind of midlife crisis so I went out to the drop zone and I sat and watched,” said Softcheck. “To see these people walking across the landing area with these grins on their faces; I had to do it. 16 years later, I’m still doing it, still loving it.”

Softcheck’s husband is a skydiver and so is her daughter, Danielle (Danielle also works at Skydive Chicago). “It’s truly all in the family,” said Softcheck.

No matter what the sport is-skydiving, bicycling, marathon running-Softcheck believes that overcoming your reservations and not listening to naysayers is key.

“One of the most important things that I’ve taught my children-beyond good morals and good decisions-is that you have to live your life, go out and do things that are important to you and don’t let fears hold you back,” said Softcheck. “Being happy and doing things you love-challenging yourself- it flows over and they grow up and they do things even when they’re afraid.”

Robin Allotta is one of those cool and confident moms that everyone wants to be friends with. She’s jumped over 1,000 times, including a high altitude jump at 30,000 feet, which required the use of oxygen and a demo jump that involved landing on someone’s farm during a picnic.

“Skydiving is a wonderful experience and such a rush,” said Allotta, a working mom of two. “When you land from skydiving you are on cloud nine; the excitement is beaming off your face and your grin is permanent.”

Allotta admits that it’s the eclectic group of people and the laid back vibe that keeps her wanting more-something that Skydive Chicago has done a stellar job of creating. Beyond that, it’s simply her ardor for the sport that she shares with her family.

“I think my kids see that their mom is committed to something she loves and that makes her happy,” Allotta said. “I enjoy life to the fullest.”

Allotta encourages other moms who are on the fence about taking a dive to, “Come out and see what else life has to offer and who knows, decide to take a leap maybe.”

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